POTTSVILLE – Schuylkill County is progressing in preparing new regulations for installing wind turbines, but are not yet ready to unveil the specifics that will comprise the curative amendment to the zoning ordinance, officials said Wednesday.
“Once it’s completed, we have to send it to the planning commission,” Assistant County Solicitor Glenn Roth said after Wednesday’s commissioners meeting, during which an activist urged them to complete the work without delay.
Virginia L. Morton, Porter Township, said county officials need to make sure the turbines do not interfere with residents enjoying their own properties.
“The county commissioners … are at a critical juncture in final decision making,” she said.
Specifically, Morton urged the commissioners to limit the height of turbines to 400 feet, which is higher than more than 68% of the existing ones in Pennsylvania, require them to be spaced apart by at least seven times the length of the blades,which will both increase energy production and limit the effects on aircraft, radar and turbulence, and have them set back at least 5,000 feet from the nearest occupied building.
She said Frailey and Porter townships and Tower City have requested those amounts, and they would be the sites of many of the proposed turbines.
“The guidelines will permit construction, but within reasonable limits,” Morton said.
Roth said the county is still working with its consultant and does not yet have a date for unveiling the proposed ordinance.
County Administrator Gary R. Bender, who also is from Porter Township, agreed.
“We’re still working on that,” he said. “We still are making changes to that.”
Commissioners Chairman George F. Halcovage Jr. estimated the planning commission could get the amendment in the next few weeks.
Bender also said the commissioners have met with officials from Fort Indiantown Gap, who worry about how wind turbines, particularly ones that have been proposed in Hegins Township, might affect their operations. State Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Township, and officials from the offices of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9, and state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, Pottsville, all attended the meeting.
“They’ve expressed concern that the wind farm would limit their operations,” he said of the fort’s officials. Bender noted that opposition from Fort Indiantown Gap officials helped kill a proposed wind arm project in 2016.
In another matter, the commissioners approved a cooperative amendment with Girardville for a demolition project at 627 E. Mahanoy Ave.
“This is a great project,” Bender said. “That’s a house in the middle of three.”
He said people live on each side of the building to be razed, which complicates matters but will not prevent the demolition.
Also on Wednesday, the commissioners approved a supplemental appropriation of $100,000 for the Domestic Relations Office.
“Domestic Relations is having a bit of a cash flow problem,” because money from the federal government is slow in coming, Director of Finance Paul E. Buber said in explaining the need for the appropriation. The money will come from an incentive fund instead of the general fund, Buber said.
Bender said the problem should not be a perennial one.
“It just happened this year,” he said. “It’s unusual.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Approved a purchase of service agreement with Bucks County Youth Center to house youths placed in its secure detention facility. The cost will be $350 per day per youth.
• Approved a three-year agreement with Language Service Associates, of Horsham, for interpreting by telephone for the courts on an as-needed basis. The cost will be $1.95 per minute.
• Renewed the contracts with Elizabeth Koperna and Carol Murphy for five years each for cleaning the offices of Magisterial District Judges James K. Reiley, Pottsville, and Christina E. Hale, Frackville, respectively. The cost for each will be $75 per month.
• Entered into a Submerged Lands License Agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Bender said the agreement is necessary to remove the abutments for County Bridge 67, which carries Mount Eagle Trail Road over Wiconisco Creek in Porter Township and is being renovated.
• Appointed Nicholas Boyle, Tamaqua, and Jesse Fey, Barry Township, to four-year terms on the county Planning Commission, and Joseph L. Palubinsky, Ringtown, to a three-year term on the same board. Palubinsky is completing the unexpired term of Michael Vigoda.
• Approved budget adjustments of $18,093 for the courts, $3,300 for the Domestic Relations Office, $17 for Human Services, $120 for Magisterial District Judges, $5,552 for the prison, $10,000 for Public Works, $1,342 for the county Transportation Authority and $50 for the solicitor’s office.
• Fired John Roshannon, Tremont, a corrections officer. Halcovage declined to say why Roshannon was fired, saying it is a personnel matter.
• Appointed Elyse Amato, Butler Township, as a 911 Training/QA supervisor. She had been the interim supervisor, and now will earn $23 per hour.
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